Playing Outside, It’s More than Fun

Imagine a child, skipping along a dirt road surrounded by green woods as they toss a hula hoop into the air. This child anticipates the fall of the hula hoop as they quickly throw out one arm to catch it with their small hand. Once that hula hoop hits the child’s hand, they immediately begin spinning it faster and faster on one finger until they let go, tossing it into the sky and waiting for it to fall back down again. This exploration goes on for quite some time as the child pretends they are performing in an Olympic hula hoop competition. 

This story is more than a scenario for me because I know the child I’m describing above. This kiddo did not grow up to be in the Olympics, but I can tell you they still love the outdoors. As a kid, I spent tons of time playing outside while letting my imagination run wild. My hula hoop allowed me to compete in the Olympics; my wooden playset was my castle and that bicycle, it was sometimes a racecar. I had quite the imagination as a child that always seemed to be put into practice when I played outside. Looking back on my childhood, I have some great memories of spending time with nature. In fact, I would say that my favorite thing to do as a kid was playing outdoors. This is why at first, I was surprised to hear that children today are spending less time playing outside as compared to the kiddos in past generations.1  However, I learned that there are different reasons why children spend more time with the indoors rather than the great outdoors and it made sense. The experts tell us that parents have fears about their children playing outside due to safety concerns, while children also spend more time inside doing things like watching TV, playing computer games and using other types of technology.2  These factors are even affecting very young children as some research suggests that on average, kiddos aged 2-5 may spend more than 32 hours a week watching television.3

After hearing this information, I realized that as a kid, I grew up in a different world than the children today. I didn’t have access to things like tablets, our family phone hung on the kitchen wall, and it wasn’t until I was older that we had a computer in our home. So, technology wasn’t a huge part of my life growing up. However, in today’s world, it’s a lot different. From the moment a child is born, they are exposed to a variety of screens. Just like adults are drawn to these chirping and beeping screens, kiddos are too. These various technological devices do provide many benefits to the world. I’m certainly thankful that my handy GPS has saved me from getting lost on many occasions. However, even though technology provides us with some significant advantages, it still raises concerns, especially when it interferes with a child’s outdoor play. Playing outdoors is necessary for a child’s healthy development.1  Playing outside is more than fun to a child; it also supports their growing minds and bodies.

Child development specialists tell us that by playing outdoors kiddos can:

• Be more physically active. When children play outside, they’re more active than when they play indoors, and they’re more likely to take part in play that builds their hearts, lungs, and muscles.1,2

• Improve their emotional health by reducing their stress and putting them in a good mood.1

• Be more creative and grow a more active imagination.3

• Build their immune system, which can prevent them from missing daycare or school in the future.2,3

• Learn how to take healthy risks in the presence of their parents such as running faster, climbing higher, jumper further, etc.1,4


These are only some of the benefits of outdoor play. As I researched this topic, it seemed that the many positive effects of playing outside for children were never-ending. With a lot of us experiencing the warm weather brought to us by the summer season, it can be a wonderful time for children to play outside and connect with nature. If you are someone who has children, I hope that you’re able to take some time to enjoy the great outdoors with your kids. If you are an individual who uses the Growing Great KidsTM  Curriculum, I encourage you to check out the subsection The Great Outdoors located in the 13-24 Months Manual under 16-18 Months…Play and Stimulation. You may also look over the list below that includes some of the GGKTM activities parents may enjoy outside with their children. I thank you for stopping by this month to check out our blog and hope that you will visit again in August. Have a great summer and remember to help children delight in the outdoors!

Growing Great KidsTM Activities to Support Parents with Outdoor Play


Growing Great KidsTM Birth-12 Months Activities

• 4-6 Months: Play and Stimulation…The Great Outdoors


Growing Great KidsTM 13-24 Months Activities

          • 13-15 Months: Cues and Communication…Pointing and Naming

          • 13-15 Months: Play and Stimulation…Scribble

          • 13-15 Months: Play and Stimulation…Push and Pull

          • 13-15 Months: Play and Stimulation…Run the Bases

          • 16-18 Months: Cues and Communication…Color Hunt

          • 16-18 Months: Play and Stimulation…Obstacle Course

          • 16-18 Months: Play and Stimulation…Amazing Animals

          • 16-18 Months: Play and Stimulation…Wet and Wild: Water Play

          • 19-21 Months: Play and Stimulation…Jump, Jump

          • 22-24 Months: Cues and Communication…Doing It Play-by-Play

          • 22-24 Months: Play and Stimulation…Making Art: Outdoor Art


Growing Great KidsTM 25-36 Months Activities

          • 25-30 Months: Basic Care…Follow My Directions Shape Game

          • 25-30 Months: Physical and Brain Development…Running and Stopping

          • 25-30 Months: Play and Stimulation…Sand and Snow Sculptures

          • 25-30 Months: Play and Stimulation…I Spy

          • 31-36 Months: Cues and Communication…Following by Leading

          • 31-36 Months: Play and Stimulation…Growing a Garden

          • 31-36 Months: Play and Stimulation…Spot the Color

References

1. Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development. (2019). Outdoor play

          hard-wired for nature! [PDF File]. Retrieved from http://www.child-

encylopdia.com/sites/default/files/docs/coups-oeil/outdoor-play-info.pdf


2. Early Head Start National Resource Center. (2013). Supporting outdoor play and

exploration for infants and toddlers [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://eclkc.ohs.

acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/ehs-ta-paper-14-outdoor-play.pdf

3. Head Start Body Start. (n.d.). Outdoor play benefits [PDF file]. Retrieved from

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/outdoor-play-benefits.pdf

4. Kinsner, K. (2019). Fresh air, fun, and exploration: Why outdoor play is essential for

healthy development. YC Young Children, 74(2), 90-92. Retrieved from

https://search.proquest.com/docview/2220129217?accountid=196176

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